COMMUNICATION is the key to human progress and communication of science is essential for the fruits of progress to reach the masses. The country’s scientific leadership and the nation builders realized this sixty years back when the Publications & Information Directorate was set up in 1951 – it was renamed the National Institute of Science Communication (NISCOM) in 1996. NISCOM merged with the Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC) in 2002 and emerged as an entity called the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR). NISCAIR has not only been communicating science to the masses but has also been disseminating information to the scientific community for the past six decades.
CSIR-NISCAIR has carved out a niche for itself in the arena of science communication, disseminating scientific information to the scientific community through its 17 peer-reviewed research journals, inventorying the country’s raw material resources through the monumental encyclopaedic series The Wealth of India, and popularizing science in the country through its three well circulated popular science magazines – Science Reporter (English), Vigyan Pragati (Hindi) and Science ki Duniya (Urdu).
The largest institute in the country engaged in science communication, CSIR-NISCAIR, a constituent establishment of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), celebrated its Diamond Jubilee Year during 2011-2012. The concluding function of the yearlong celebrations was held on 17 October 2012 at the DRDO Bhawan, New Delhi.
While former President of India Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was the Chief Guest, also gracing the occasion were Shri Vayalar Ravi, Hon’ble Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Overseas Indian Affairs and Small & Medium Enterprises; Dr. Ashwani Kumar, Hon’ble Minister of State for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Planning, and Prof. Samir K. Brahmachari, Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Secretary, DSIR.
Greatly appreciating the contents of Science Reporter, former President of India Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam congratulated CSIR-NISCAIR for its high-quality research journals that had managed to garner landmark Impact Factor and The Wealth of India for capturing the wealth of India’s biodiversity. Dr Kalam hoped CSIR-NISCAIR would spread its wings to reach the unreached in local languages. He also advised CSIR-NISCAIR to start a science channel for television and create interesting and enlightening scientific content for the channel. Further, he also wanted the Institute to start a daily science newspaper, initially as an e-paper. Dr Kalam also called upon CSIR to launch a Mobile Science Laboratory that could go around the rural areas of the country demonstrating CSIR’s rural technologies.
Earlier, appreciating the three popular science magazines brought out by CSIR-NISCAIR, Science and Technology Minister Shri Vayalar Ravi congratulated CSIR-NISCAIR for having constantly reinvented and repositioned itself to remain relevant for the nation for sixty long years. He made a strong pitch for popular science magazines to be brought out in regional languages also and hoped the Institute would work towards this end.
Shri Vayalar Ravi also appreciated the Institute’s encyclopedic publication The Wealth of India, which even in the 21st century was an authentic source to establish India’s biodiversity and traditional knowledge. It played a major role in backing up India’s claim for priority in the US patent case on turmeric. He also lauded NISCAIR journals that had notched up an increase of >41% in Impact Factor over that from the previous year. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology and Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics had even crossed an Impact Factor of 1.0 – a rarity for Indian journals.
In his address, Dr. Ashwani Kumar, Hon’ble Minister of State for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Planning said that the need for communicating science, not only to the research community but also to the public, is the foundation for building an educated and informed citizenry. And it is in this respect that CSIR-NISCAIR has been rendering yeoman service to the nation. He said generations of Indians have grown up reading Science Reporter and referring to The Wealth of India. He was also happy to note that CSIR-NISCAIR had the distinction of being the National Centre of the ISSN International Centre for assigning ISSN numbers for serials published in India. However, he cautioned against being content with these achievements and wanted the Institute to expand its reach to different languages. Dr Ashwani Kumar also said that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s foremost concern was rekindling scientific temper among the citizens of the country and this is where CSIR-NISCAIR could play a big role.
In fact, CSIR-NISCAIR has already made a beginning in this regard. During the Diamond Jubilee year (2011-2012), the Institute took up the cause of retrieving and reviving the concept of scientific temper. Realising that during the past few years there has been a marked increase in public display of religious identities, and privatisation of the electronic media has also led to unabashed promotion of superstitions and non-scientific dogmas and notions through TV serials and the highly competitive news channels, CSIR-NISCAIR sought to give a second push, so to say, to the concept of scientific temper in the country by organizing three conferences. The common thread that ran through the deliberations in all these conferences was the need to spread the concept of scientific temper at all levels of the society.
Taking this a step further, the Institute also brought out two books – one in English and the other in Hindi – focused on the concept of scientific temper based on the deliberations at these conferences. The books titled Quest for Scientific Temper and Vaigyanik Drishtikon – Ek Nayee Pahal were released by Dr Ashwani Kumar at the function.
Prof. Samir K. Brahmachari, Director-General, CSIR appreciated the Institute’s efforts in bringing out exceptional and contemporary issues of Science Reporter month after month. He was happy to note that when the Prime Minister’s Office needs support in Japanese translation it finds the expertise in CSIR-NISCAIR, and when the Jharkhand Chief Minister wants to know abut the biodiversity in his state he is handed a copy of The Wealth of India, which is again published by CSIR-NISCAIR. He also appreciated the fact that while analyzing the highly cited research papers, the most cited paper with 956 citations was published in a journal brought out by CSIR-NISCAIR.
Earlier, in his Welcome Address, Dr Gangan Prathap, Director-NISCAIR pointed to the high place accorded to knowledge by quoting Solomon (900 BC) who said, “It is better to have knowledge and wisdom than to have gold and silver.” Dr Prathap said that Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has quoted in his website: “Creativity leads to thinking and thinking to knowledge.” To this he added that knowledge locked up in the minds of men is of no use to humanity. It has to be disseminated and communicated, and that is the role CSIR-NISCAIR is mandated to do.
As part of its Diamond Jubilee celebrations, apart from several activities the Institute also organized science quiz, debate and painting competitions for school students. While the topic for the debate was “Social media like Facebook and Twitter are a bane rather than a boon”, those taking part in the painting competition put on canvas their thoughts on conserving the environment for the future. The Science and Technology Minister Shri Vayalar Ravi and DG-CSIR Prof. Samir K. Brahmachari gave away prizes to the winners of these competitions at the function. For the prizewinners, the prizes were indeed motivating, but listening to eminent scientists and the former President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was an immensely enlightening experience.
CSIR-NISCAIR embraces a wide spectrum of society in the country ranging from students and teachers to scientists and professionals, from industries and research institutions to even farmers and the common masses. It is committed to enhancing its reach even further through innovative and technological interventions in the coming years.
Hasan Jawaid Khan